Cannabis Recreational Use Is Still Banned, Anutin Warns

Public Health Ministry clarified that people who use marijuana to get high could face severe punishment even though Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis on Thursday.

In an interview for US media outlet CNN, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the Thai government hoped that legalizing cannabis production would boost the domestic economy. However, he clarified that the drug’s recreational use remains illegal and could carry tough consequences.

Mr. Anutin warned: “It’s a no. We still have regulations under the law that controls the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

Thailand’s decision to decriminalize cannabis allows people to grow and market marijuana or derivative products for medical purposes and treat illnesses as long as growers have the required permits.

Under decriminalization, restaurants and cafes can also serve cannabis-infused food and drinks.

However, any marijuana-infused product must contain less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s main psychoactive compound. Products with a higher THC content are still considered Category 5 Narcotics.

Additionally, punishments against people who smoke cannabis in public remain in place under the Public Health Act, with harsh penalties that can include up to three months in prison and fines of $800 for lawbreakers.

The Public Health Minister said Thai authorities always emphasize using cannabis extracts and raw materials “for medical and health purposes.”

“There has never once been a moment that we would think about advocating people to use cannabis in terms of recreation — or use it in a way that it could irritate others,” he went on.

Mr. Anutin’s warning was also directed at foreign tourists visiting Thailand, asking international travelers not to visit the country if they only hope to take advantage of cannabis decriminalization to light up joints in public and with no legal risks.

“If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong. Don’t eat. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose,” he added.

The Public Health Minister also said he expected the cannabis industry’s value to exceed $2 billion, generating multimillion-dollar revenues for the country by boosting agriculture. He also noted the government’s related incentives, including the plan to distribute 1 million free cannabis plants to Thai homes.